Ever since president Richard Nixonsigned it into law on June 23, 1972, Title IX and exactly what rules it implieshas been a topic for much debate. One of the more hotly debated areas of thelaw was added, in a 1975 revision of Title IX, what’s known as the contactsport exemption (CSE). According to Blake J. Furman, this exemption”Essentially… declared that separate teams for each sex were permitted, but awoman had to be allowed to try out for a men’s sports team if there was nowomen’s team in that sport and if the sport was a non-contact sport” (Furman,p.
1173). This would seem to be a relatively fair ruling, but for the lack ofany firm definition of what constitutes both contact and non-contact sports.The law does give some indication of this though, stating that “Contact sportsunder the Title IX regulation include boxing, wrestling, rugby, ice hockey,football, basketball and other sports in which the purpose or major activityinvolves bodily contact” (“Equal Opportunity in Intercollegiate”, 2015).
Thisdefinition still seems to be lacking though, as it leaves in the phrase “othersports in which the purpose or major activity involves bodily contact” (“EqualOpportunity in Intercollegiate”, 2015), giving a substantially wide berth toanyone wishing to misuse the language to justify sexual discrimination. Thispoor clarification has given cause to several court cases in the past forty-sixyears, some of which will be disused in this paper. Thefirst of these, and probably the most well-known, is the case of Mercer v. DukeUniversity, in which “Heather Sue Mercer challenges the federal districtcourt’s holding that Title IX provides a blanket exemption for contact sports”(Mercer v. Duke University, 1999).
This case was an appeal, on the part of Mercer,of “her claim that Duke University discriminated against her during herparticipation in Duke’s intercollegiate football program” (Mercer v. DukeUniversity, 1999). Before she began attending at Duke, the plaintiff had been asuccessful all-state kicker at her school in Yorktown Heights, New York. Upon herentry into Duke at the start of the 1994-1995 school year, Mercer became the first,and only, girl to try out for the Duke football team as a walk-on kicker, thoughshe failed to make the team. She did however begin serving as team manager for the1994 season, and regularly attended practices and joined the team in conditioningdrills the spring of 1995. Then in April of 1995 the seniors of the Duke footballteam selected Mercer as their kicker for that springs Blue-White intrasquad scrimmagegame. In this game Mercer kicked a 28-yard game winning field goal, to grant herteam a 24-22 victory.